Country Pastor column: The Bread of Life gives life
By Timothy Rosenow, pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Prescott
51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."
52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"
53 Jesus said to them, "Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever." [John 6:51-58, NIV]
Jesus' words in the chapter have reached their pinnacle as he proclaimed not only that he was
the Bread of Life, but that this Bread "is my flesh which I will give for the life of the world" [v.51]. And it's this heart of Jesus' discourse that was also the heart of the sharp argument: "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" [v.52]. The crowds made the natural connection between bread—this substance that I eat to sustain my life—and what Jesus said about how this bread is also his flesh. Therefore, by applying their wisdom they determined that they were being asked to eat Jesus' flesh.
The real question was: Is that what Jesus meant? Here we have to be extremely careful, remembering that it was Satan who first asked "Did God really say...?" [Genesis 3:1] and thus our answer for what Christ means here must be drawn from what Christ says elsewhere in Scripture. Let's gather the evidence: In the immediate context, Jesus was using bread as a connection to the providence he gave beyond merely filling bellies—as he had done with the feeding of the 5,000 families at the beginning of this chapter. So to revert back to meaning simply "eating for sustenance" would seem to combat his point. Further, Christ had responded to the crowd bringing up the manna in the wilderness [v.31] as the bread from heaven they wanted, by showing how the eating of that bread from heaven ended in their ancestors' death [v.49, 58].
No, it all comes back to the Word of Christ. And that Word of Christ was proven to be reliable
and certain by the impossible thing that he did: Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day [v.54]. Jesus came down from heaven as the perfect One to live under the law. He then gave up that sinless life on the cross in order to bring us to life! What's more is that he then rose from the grave to show that whoever receives him in faith will rise too! What that fact offers us is the absolute certainty—beyond any shadow of a doubt—that the Bread of Life gives life, and that life is eternal. No other bread—no other wisdom!—can even offer such a promise, much less follow through on it. Praise the Lord, our Bread of Life. Amen.